Monday, January 28, 2013

Just a small update - we are in Mompox, some 300km away from Cartagena
After we've been off the bikes for some time everything starts almost from the biginning; so on the first days we took it easy, checking our bodies how they are copeing; not only with the break of five months, but also with the extreme temperstures that reach here over 40 degrees Celcius i the middle of the day and drop to 30 at night.

We are still on the low lands so we've had fairly flat roads, though we've faced first Colombian gravel roads and have aparently plenty ahead. Until the next week th climbing won't start we will see how it goes we have hundreds and hundreds of meters to climb ahead.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ready, steady, go! Part Two: South America!
We are excited! Tomorrow we are back on the road!
Somehow naturally, without our intention at all, our adventure got divided into two parts. Last year in September we arrived to Portobelo in Panama, which for us was the end of North America; that was when we had the opportunity to earn some money, but just before that we did 3-week backpacking trip in Colombia with Ania and Kamila; and then because of various circumstances we decided to go home for Christmas. 
Now, after nearly 5! (I've just realized that! Long time!) months, we are back in Cartagena, the place where we stepped on South American ground for the very first time. A week ago we were in Medellin, but we decided to come by bus (the same way as we got to Medellin) uh here so that we won't miss cycling any part of Colombia. 
We took advantage of being in US and Europe and got some bike parts and other useful stuff that are hard to get here. Lets do a small sum up of what we are starting with the second part.
First of all bikes, that Raul was working on them for few days. We both have new chain and casette; it was the second change of them. We changed it for the first time after about 8000km, and now - after 16770km. The crown sets seem to be still working fine in both bikes. All the cables and housings has been changed as well (it was the second time for the gear ones; first time - breaks). Raul had to service his rear hub, because the cones were worn off. And we changed my front tire, which has been with me since Alaska. My rear tire has still some life left as it was changed in Portland, Oregon. Raul's front tire came with him from Alaska and still can do a little bit more, while the rear one is fairly new (has been changed in Chiapas, Mexico). However, we carry two new tires - one each  -  a bit thicker (the thickest possible that will fit on our bikes) and with a grip that is better for gravel roads, which we'll have to face more often in South America. We also carry 5 spare inner tubes, because we learnt that south from US in size 700 we can only get the skinny tubes for road bikes. And we have new  grips, the one with a platform for long hours on a bike, thanks to which the wrist is more relaxed. It was a present, thank you guys! Ah! The last thing - speedometers. Both, mine and Raul, had to be exchanged two times already and the last ones we got somewhere in Mexico. They were both of no-brand and didn't last long. So now we invested in something better. Mine will even show us the altitude and the grade while climbing. Another present; thank you Parents!
We also got few new stuff for camping, but first of all we finally got the zips in our tent fixed! Because to open/close them was becoming an art; we had to hold here, squeeze there and pull the zipper at a certain angle and all of it at the same time to make sure that it won't separate in the middle of the night. It costed Raul many hours of unravelling, but was undoubtedly necessary. We are planning to do more treks now that Andes are just in front of us. That's why we got trekking shoes, instead of lighter trainers that we had before. For the same reason we decided to exhange the big transverse rear pannier that Raul carries for a 50l backpack that will do the same job as the pannier on daily basis, but when we want to go trekking we'll have comfortable backpack. And the last thing is a present as well, which I believe is going to be very useful; it's small JetBoil stove, which will be just perfect to prepare hot cup of something for lunch in cold days up in the Andes. Thanks Sis!
So that's us. Ready. South America! We are coming! ;)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Back in Colombia
So what was going on with us for the last three months? We got to US and managed to top up our budget; we spent some time in San Francisco, which I personally like a lot; we went to LA to visit our friends and had great time with them. We even managed to do a few days trip to US Parks that we like so much. This time we choose South and the heat of the desert. We went to Anza-Borrego State Park and Joshua National Park, which is stunning! And then we flew to Europe for Christmas to spent some time with our families.
Now we are back in Colombia. We flew to Bogota and that is where we left from three months ago. We went to exactly the same Hostel we stayed in the first time. Three months ago, a day before our flight to US we walked Ania and Kamila to the bus stop, because they were going to Peru after three weeks of travelling with us in Colombia. So when we got to the hostel this time it seemed as if we just said ‘Bye’ to the girls. Somehow it felt to me as if we never left Bogota.
Few days ago we picked our bikes and when we first saw them they looked miserable. We left them covered with a tarp, but in the meantime they were doing some painting and had to move our bikes and never covered them back. So they had thick layer of dust on them, they were splashed with whitewash, full of spider webs and with tires flat. I thought we’ll need hours of hard work before they can take us anywhere. But it was enough to wipe the dust off, pump up the tires and they looked so much better!
Our first ride after 3 months was a real challenge! 10 or so kilometres uphill on a steep windy road full of crazy Colombian drivers under genuine tropical Sun with all those extra kilograms of food and other luxuries that we brought from Europe. But we made it! Slowly, but surely we got to the top :)
We are now in Casa del Cyclista just outside of Medellin taking advantage of the generosity of Manuel, his wife Marta and daughter Manuela, who not only open their house for us (and other cyclist; including us there are 5 cyclist in the house now!), but also let Raul use their bike shop, where he can give his ‘babies’ new look. And in the meantime I’ve been doing, as usual, the ‘computer stuff’ (which is anything that involves using computer – writing, organizing pictures, googling etc.), but I cannot complain, because I’m sitting on a porch of their little ‘finca’ (finca means house in a farm, but here they use it for any countryside house, whether you do farming or not) with beautiful Antioquenas mountains in front of me. 

Ah! And Journal is completed all the way to Panama! Have a look!